SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. William Dummer
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey
Mr. William Dummer, past president of the Historical
Association of Osceola County, Fla., Inc., discusses
the settlement of St. Cloud as a veteran's colony. Early
settlers of Kissimmee and early Seminole contacts in
Kissimmee are mentioned. Descriptions of several photo-
graphs of specific Seminole Indians conclude this
Disston Company, 1
Everglades Sunday School, 3
Florida Sugar Manufacturing Company, 1
GAR home, 7
Heatherington, Alma (local historian), 4
Historical Association of Osceola County, Florida, Incorporated, 6
Kissimmee (Allendale), 5-6
Seminoles in photographs, 8
Seminole Land and Investment Co., 2
St. Cloud (settlement of), 1-3, 5
Willson, Minnie Moore, 4
K: Today we're interviewing Mr. William Dummer, St. Cloud, on some
of the history of the area. Now this is just a picture book--
starting out with Osceola here, the Kissimmee Land Agency. Was
this the land that was originally laid out by Disston's purchase?
D: No. Disston had a little, owned a little land, up in Kissimmee,
but the whole of Kissimmee would not be included in his land. We
have a map and a prospectus of the Disston Company. It has a map
of all the land Disston had in Florida, including the sugar mill,
which was one of his projects, but not under his name. That was
the Florida Sugar Manufacturing Company.
K: I see a picture here in this scrapbook of some of the Indians, the
Greystone Hotel in 1911 in Kissimmee. Were they just there as a
K: I see.
D: I've got pictures of them here, leaning over a fence, watching' the
construction of this hotel back in 1901-10.
K: Which hotel was this now?
D: The St. Cloud Hotel.
K: I see.
D: 'Cause that was the only hotel--early hotel--here in St. Cloud.
K: So they were coming up here that early.
D: Oh, yes, they were here at that time. They used to come in here
and bring in produce and stuff, for things to sell to the people
here in 1909-10.
K: When was the town founded, officially?
D: The winter of 1908 and '09 there were three houses, twenty-odd
tents here. So that was the very first of St. Cloud, although
the name St. Cloud was already in this area because that was the
name of the settlement where the sugar mill was. Out there on the
canal. Near east Lake Tohopekaliga. That was the first St. Cloud.
And that was moved into this area here, see, in 1909.
K: Now is it true the land was settled here pretty much by Union
veterans initially, or did that come later with the lottery and
the settlement of the land?
D: In 1908, there was really nothing here except the railroad
went through. And they had a station here, so-called, which
was an old freight car, fixed up for a station, and the name
of the place was Sunnyside. And at that time, they were
riding cattle all over this area right here. The Republic
of Washington, D.C., headquarters there. Well, the ones
really and those connected with them were really the ones
that settled this area here because they formed the Seminole
Land and Investment Company, which bought a lot of this land
all around in this side of Disston's. No, not, that wasn't
in Disston's day, because they had had the sugar mill out there,
which of course was earlier. That dated back to 1883.
K: Disston's purchase was in the'80s, all right, I recall that. So
the people who did come in were coming in to farm basically, and
D: They--no, they were--this was a veteran's colony, of old veterans
of the old wars. It was selected because they wanted a warm
climate they could live in year round. And it was a veterans'
colony because the company was formed by the veterans' organization
in Washington, D.C., and the magazine and the first plot that was
sold here was sold only to veterans. And they got $50 for a
five-acre lot, out in the boondocks. And that included one lot
in town. This house here was built on one of these lots. The lot
was twenty-five foot wide, and went back, I think about 350 feet.
We can get that checked on that. But that was a culmination.
The first one hundred were sold only to veterans. Then they
jacked the price up, which was a good deal--to do that. They
jacked the price up to $100 for a lot outside, and--five-acre
K: That's the price I had heard, was a hundred dollars.
D: Yeah. And then those went only to veterans. Then for the third lot
they went up to $200, for five-acre lot outside the city and the twen-
ty-five foot lot inside. Yet they did not know where the lots were
going to be. Amongst the first of them, on the first drawing anyhow,
but you paid your money, and....
K: Like a lottery.
D: It was a lottery, as to where your lot was. But they were very care-
ful in the drawings. They did not have two lots that were adjoining,
sold. They had the one lot, they'd have to have the second one from
thet, that was, no doubt in my mind whatsoever, was done so if a man
wanted more than a 25-foot wide lot, he could buy one on either side
of him. And have his 50-foot lot or--that way. Which was a fair
deal. And then after the third drawing, they--then it was opened
to the--anybody who wanted to buy. But it was a veterans' colony.
And it wasn't a money-making scheme. And it grew in size very quickly.
Well, there wasn't a place in the United States that grew as fast.
The first few years St. Cloud, right here, 'twas on that account: it
wasn't a money-making scheme. They got to--they wanted the people
down here, and to the veterans. And they told the veterans starting'
out, always has been the veterans but the old-timers have dropped off.
K: Looking through the scrapbook here I see something very interesting--
a Mr. Willson's Sunday School class. July, 1899. It has seven Indian
children in it.
D: 1899, huh? Yeah.
K: Yes. Mr. Willson's Sunday School class, it has the boys listed....
D: That'd be at Kissimmee probably.
K: Um-hum. It says Everglades Sunday School class, a Mr. Willson.
D: Oh, Everglades Sunday School.
K: Uh-huh. There's a chickee here in this picture and the children
outside. If they were responsive to Sunday School that early, that
is interesting. Because generally speaking, you weren't getting
any great number, particularly down South, of the Miccosukee
speakers--to interpret Christianity until 1910,1911...it they
were coming up here, this would be consistent with what we know
of the Brighton Indians, that they are far, far ahead of the
others. But to see them in a Sunday School is most interesting.
D: Well, the Indian, you see, Kissimmee originally was Allendale, and
it was just a, these delayed action memories are not too good,
trading post. It was just an Indian trading post. The story is,
and it's told by quite a number, of course, in those days, they
were not supposed to sell any firewater to the Indians. But there
at that trading post, I guess some was sold. And stories told
about this one Indian, who used to come up there to buy the stuff, and
he had, on the bottle, like the champagne bottles, had a lot of...
hole, or opening in the bottom of it, you know. Well, he wouldn't
buy that bottle of liquor unless they filled that hollow space at
the bottom...and he drank it out. There, and then he'd buy the
bottle of liquor.
K: I see a picture of Minnie Moore Willson here, who has written a book
on the Seminoles. Evidently this was her husband or her brother
or someone who ran this Sunday School class. W-I-L-L-S-O-N. That's
an unusual spelling. And here's a picture of Jim Willson--I guess
that he is the one. They--were the early settlers--does this ring
a bell with you at all?
D: Yes. They were early settlers in Kissimmee.
K: I see.
D: Mrs. Alma Hetherington, is really the old historian of this area
through here. She used to live down on Okeechobee, down there,
and then up through here. And she is the one that got together
that, that book that you have there.
K: Um-Hum. With all the...
D: And she...and she knew them, those people.
K: I know they were, the Indians were still, particularly the Brighton
Indians, were still coming up here in the 40s, working around here.
D: Yes, yes.
K: And doing different things. Some of these pictures are very, very
interesting. I know that the people would like to see this. Yes,
Mrs. J. W. Willson, yes, there are pictures of her throughout. I
wonder if any of the ranchers around here would be useful, do you
think, in talking to them in terms of some of them coming up, the
Indians coming up and working for them?
K: ...and they were doing this as late as the 40s, the Partons,
Scrattons, and people like this might be...
D: ...well, Godwin, the recently retired postmaster. He would be
a man to talk with regarding some of those things.
K: Um-hum. Since you have been here, have you seen any of the Seminoles
around? Have any of them been here from time to time?
D: Came up from the reservation down there to talk to us. I had them
up here a number of times...they were up here twice. And talked
K: Um-hmm. This was just to fill in background on the Indians?
D: Yes. Just entertainment. Like we have here a community house and
a historical society. They were up to Kissimmee to the new hall
that was owned by the bank up there.
K: Uh-huh. I see some relatives of some people I know really well--the
Huffs, for example. There's some old pictures here--here's something
I had not seen before, old Charlie Huff, father of Sam Huff, grand-
father of Frank Huff, has a chickee built on a wagon.
K: Moving around the countryside. Instead of just having a covered wagon,
look at this, he's got a, gotta chickee, built there on top of his
K: I don't think I've ever seen that before. Now I know they were
all through this area, they did a good deal of work, and the
cattlemen probably used them extensively, so I'll have to get out
and talk to them as well. Well, let's move on...those pictures
are quite good. People may want to duplicate those some time.
Those are good, I haven't seen some of those.
D: That, that book is the property, of course, of the historical
D: Which we commonly call the historical society. It's incorporated.
K: That is, the St. Cloud.
D: The Historical Association of Osceola County, Florida, Incorporated.
K: Um-hmm. Now where, do they have an office--a permanent secretary-
treasurer, or something of this nature?
K: Or are you it?
D: No, I...not for awhile. After the historical society slowly got
down to only just the officers, then we carried on, just the four
or five of us here. And I was the president for a number of years.
And during the last part of that is when the society got started.
And we were able to arrange a museum there at the arts and culture
place. And after the museum is pretty well completed, got things
pretty well underway, why, then I dropped out as president--age
and health the items that caused me to do that.
K: Well, let's talk a little bit about this GAR home, now. This is
still interesting to me. Could you sort of start from where you
knew it began? I think you mentioned yesterday that it started
with a barn that they had moved, or--what was the inception of
D: Um, these records that have been, this old scrapbook [that] has just
been given to me lately, within the last two months, has quite a
good deal in it about veterans' organizations here in St. Cloud.
From that and other dates we can get at about when they started.
But the colonists, as we call 'em, were coming in here. They,
of course, wanted some religious services, and they held the
first about, were held at, of course, at the houses around. And
then they met in the printing office, which was located up Massa-
chusetts Avenue about where the mortuary is up there now. Then
as that grew, the colony grew here, they hired a tent from the
state Baptist Association; set that tent up there on Massachusetts
on where now the women's club has the library, and they have a
hall there. That was set there. And everybody attended that.
The ministers from Kissimmee would be here one Sunday, the other
one would be here another Sunday. They took turns that way, some
of them came down, came from Orlando. Records were kept, of course,
of the Sunday School that was held there in that tent. And that
records book I have here. It was given to me to be kept if and
until the historical society had a place to preserve it. We haven't,
I haven't turned it over, turned it over to the museum yet, but...
and in that book, giving a record of each Sunday, and they gave
also the names of all the children who attended there, gave the
names of the teachers and the principal of the thing and all that,
and we have that record. And included in that, was the statement
that they had donated ten dollars toward the moving of the GAR
hall. That turned out to.be the village right across the street
here at 1212 New York Avenue. Turned out to be about I guess,
1215, maybe. Yeah. 1211, which was a barn or shed, which belonged
to a Mrs. Cass, who owned the whole area on the corner over across.
They gave ten dollars toward the moving of that. That was moved
up to the corner of llth Street, and the alley which runs between
llth and 12th. That stayed there until after the brick GAR building
was built, and they used it for the suppers and entertainers, and
things of that sort for awhile. I do not know as to when, I don't
know if there's any records as to when it was taken down. This old
scrapbook has records in it of when they were starting to raise
money for the building of the GAR hall.
K: There are a number of pictures of Seminole Indians available in Mr.
Dummer's collection...more notable among these are the following:
One is a group of Seminole Indians, a group picture, with a Miami,
Florida caption on it. It belonged to Mr. J. M. Willson of
Kissimmee, dated July 10, 1907. A second picture, it shows
an Indian and his squaw standing on the steps of a structure
surrounded by whites, with the caption, "Billy Bowlegs and his
sister...in the Everglades, taken in front of the Greystone
Hotel." Postcard was mailed in 1911 from Kissimmee. There
is another picture here of Mr. Jim Willson and baby egrets,
of Billy Bowlegs III with egret plumes from tame birds picked
up one at a time from the yard of the Willson home in Kissim-
mee. Many family group pictures, some with the Willson fam-
ily and Indians. There are several pictures of Jim Willson
and Billy Bowlegs III. One of the more interesting group
pictures is that of the Seminole Indians of Oklahoma, who
went as the first Christian missionaries to the Seminoles
of Florida in the fall of 1909. An Indian, Late Willson and
Charlie Snow, perhaps named after Willson. Another picture
of old Charlie, father of Sam Huff and grandfather of Frank
Huff of Brighton, showing the way they traveled with a chickee
built on a wagon there. Another picture of old Charlie, which...
with the caption, "Sent to Mrs. J. W. Willson by W, M. Mosley
of Delray Beach, April 25, 1910." A picture of William Jumper
and Billy Bowlegs' brother, taken by Captain Johnson at Fisheating
Creek and sent to Mr. Willson, with his regards and the message
that these Indian friends are anxious to see him again. These
are Brighton Indians. Another picture, dated July, 1899, which
showed Mr. Willson's Sunday School class, with seven Indian chil-
dren present--Tommy Mikko's boy, Tommy Bigelow's boy, and Tom
Tiger's boy, John Billy's boy, Tommy Bigelow's boy, and Jimmy
Gopher's boy. Again the date: 1899. Many assorted pictures
of Indian, Indian family groups at the Willson house in Kissimmee.
A picture of Billy Buster. And finally a group with Minnie Moore
Willson and Billy Bowlegs III at the Willson home in Kissimmee.
Also Martha Tiger, squaw of old Tom Tiger, and his son. Also the
son of Late Willson. A picture possibly taken around 1911, or a